Cheapest Ways to Take Card Payments in 2024

Customer paying on a portable card machine

All providers have been reviewed and tested by our Research team. By requesting a quote, we can match you with a potential supplier, and we may earn a small commission for this referral

According to our extensive evaluation, Retail Merchant Services provides the cheapest way to take card payments, charging transaction fees as low as 0.4%, and a negotiable account fee.

With card payments accounting for 90% of retail spending, it's no surprise that UK merchants collectively spend a whopping £1.3 billion accepting them. After all, transaction fees, account fees, and card machine rental costs can add up. To help you save as much as you can, we've analysed 11 top merchant service providers to find out which are cheapest:

What are the cheapest ways to take card payments?

We recommend these providers based on our independent research. Clicking the above links will take you to our free cost comparison tool, which you can use to find the best deal for your business and avoid overspending.

  1. Retail Merchant Services – Best for custom pricing
  2. Tyl – Best for affordable hardware
  3. Revolut – Best for simple PCI compliance
  4. Zettle – Best for help and support
  5. takepayments – Best for cheap transaction fees

If you’re still unsure which provider to pick, don’t worry: in this article, we cover the pricing, pros, and cons of the five cheapest contenders, so you can find out which of our top credit card machine providers fits your budget best.

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The cheapest merchant services for taking card payments

These are our top picks for merchant service providers that come with cheap charges, from free subscriptions to cheap card machines to competitive transaction fees.

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0 out of 0
Best For

Low transaction fees on card payments

Best For

Low-cost hardware

Best For

Cheap transaction fees

Best For

Convenience

Best For

Features

Hardware Cost

Bespoke

Hardware Cost

From £6.99/month

Hardware Cost

£49 + VAT

Hardware Cost

From £29 + VAT

Hardware Cost

From £25 + VAT/month

Monthly Fee

From £10 + VAT

Monthly Fee

From £9.99 + VAT/month

Monthly Fee

None

Monthly Fee

None

Monthly Fee

From £20 + VAT

Transaction fee
  • 0.4% debit cards
  • 0.8% credit cards
  • 0.79% + 10p online
Transaction fee

1.50%

Transaction fee

From 1% + 20p online
0.8% + 2p in person

Transaction fee

2.5% online
1.75% in-person

Transaction fee

Bespoke

Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Free Trial/Plan
Fund transfer time

3-5 business days

Fund transfer time

Up to 3 working days

Fund transfer time

Up to 3 working days

Fund transfer time

1-2 working days

Fund transfer time

Next day

The table above provides an at-a-glance overview and comparison of the providers; you can read on for a more thorough review of each one.

If you're short on time or want some extra support to find the best price, you can use our merchant service cost comparison tool to speed things up and to make sure you don't end up overspending.

1. Retail Merchant Services – Best for custom pricing

Retail Merchant Services logo
Retail Merchant Services
4.7
Fees 0.4%-0.79% + 10p
Quick overview

Retail Merchant Services is a payment solution company that’s big on features and small on price. Its value for money shines through the overall score of 4.7/5 our expert researchers awarded it after their testing.

It packs six reporting tools (including real-time data insights and wastage monitoring), and accepts 100 currencies, which sees the provider score 4.1/5 for features. This favours small business owners who can use the data from the provider to plan a growth strategy.

While international entrepreneurs may also benefit from this, it’s worth noting takepayments has a better multi-currency support (it accepts 170 currencies). takepayments also comes with more reporting tools than Retail Merchant Services (eight), so as far as we're concerned, it's second to none when it comes to features.

Furthermore, Retail Merchant Services is the only contract merchant account we researched that isn’t Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, which means the provider doesn’t take industry-standard procedures to keep data safe. It also means that, for the security of your business, you’ll have to undertake these procedures by yourself. Also, because it only offers support over the phone, it scores a low 2.6/5 for customer support.

Pros

Custom pricing

Plentiful reporting tools

Cons

Support only available via phone

Not PCI compliant

Pricing
Fee typePrice
Transaction fees From 0.4% to 0.75% + 10p
Account fee From £10 + VAT per month
Card machine price Bespoke

How cheap is Retail Merchant Services?

Retail Merchant Services provides the cheapest way to take card payments, according to our extensive testing. That’s due to its low transaction fees: 0.4% for debit cards, 0.8% for credit cards, and 0.79% + 10p for online payments.

Its account fee, which starts at a low £10 + VAT per month, can be negotiated. This means your business has a prime chance to strike a deal that doesn’t break your bank and reduces your overall cost.

This led to the provider topping the price category in our research with a perfect score of 5/5, beating Tyl’s 4.8/5 and Revolut’s 4.6/5. These providers charge a minimum transaction fee of 1.5% and 0.8% + 2p, respectively, but it’s worth noting that they don’t charge account fees, which is great if you’re keen on avoiding a fixed cost to take payments.

However, because Retail Merchant Services underperforms in compliance and customer support (it scored a low 2.6/5 for the latter, for example), this prevents it from being deemed as the best provider overall.

2. Tyl – Best for affordable hardware

tyl logo
Tyl
4.4
Fees Bespoke-1.50%
Quick overview

Tyl is an economical card reader provider. It offers four readers, the cheapest of which can be rented for just £9.99 + VAT per month. This affordability, along with the great customer support that our researchers found while testing Tyl, led to an overall score of 4.4/5 in our analysis.

By running customer support via phone and live chat every day (albeit not 24/7), it gets an impressive 4.7/5 in this category. Worldpay beats Tyl on this front by offering 24/7 phone support though. Square, while also not offering 24/7 service, includes an email channel that Tyl lacks. For us, both these providers have perfect customer support and are better suited for businesses that are open around the clock than Tyl.

Tyl offers an invoicing tool, but it falls short on integrations (only four providers connect with it). It also only comes with two reporting tools and doesn’t support multiple currencies. In comparison, takepayments comes with eight reporting tools and supports 170 currencies.

Pros

Hardware available via low-cost subscriptions

Most of its readers come with mobile data

Cons

Third-party integration offering is scarce

No multi-currency support

Pricing
Fee typePrice
Transaction fees 1.5%, or bespoke
Account fee None charged
Card machine price From £9.99 + VAT per month

How cheap is Tyl?

Like its mobile merchant account competitors, Tyl doesn’t charge an account fee and its transaction fee occupies a solid middle ground in the market. At 1.50%, it’s higher than Revolut’s 0.8% + 2p, but lower than Zettle’s 1.75%.

This was reflected in our merchant account analysis, where Tyl is the runner-up for price. That said, due to its fixed hardware fee (which starts at £9.99 + VAT per month), we think Tyl is best suited to medium-sized to large businesses.

However, Tyl’s features offering is subpar. It only offers four integrations against Revolut’s 16 and Zettle’s 21. It also lacks the multi-currency support that both Revolut and Zettle offer.

This makes Tyl a no-no for international business owners. Furthermore, because its integrations are all accounting-related, it’s not the best provider for ecommerce businesses.

Pricing was updated in December 2023 to reflect an increase in the monthly price of the cheapest card reader – £6.99 to £9.99. 

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3. Revolut – Best for simple PCI compliance

Revolut Logo
Revolut
4.8
Fees 0.8% + 2p-1% + 20p
Quick overview

Revolut is a merchant account that also offers banking, stock trading, and card reader services. Its variety of solid payment taking services impressed our experts and won Revolut a high score of 4.8/5 upon our testing.

All of Revolut’s applications are PCI-compliant, which simplifies your compliance procedure. Revolut also integrates with 16 third-party providers and accepts 30 currencies.

However, if you’re a small business owner looking for data insights to grow, takepayments and Retail Merchant Services would be better suited to you. The former packs eight reporting tools, while the latter packs six - meanwhile, Revolut has only two.

Revolut offers customer support via phone and email, but lacks a live chat channel (like Tyl). This hiccup prevented it from getting a perfect score from us in this category. If you’re looking for hands-on support, Worldpay is your best choice as it offers 24/7 phone support.

Pros

Easy PCI compliance procedure

Low transaction fees

Cons

Limited reporting tools

No fraud prevention system

Pricing
Fee typePrice
Transaction fees 0.8% + 2p (in person) or 1% + 20p (online)
Account fee None charged
Card machine price £49

How cheap is Revolut?

As merchant accounts go, Revolut packs a punch – and its brass knuckles are definitely its low transaction fees.

Its transaction fees – 0.8% + 2p for in-person payments and 1% + 20p for online ones – are among the cheapest we encountered in our analysis. In comparison, Tyl’s transaction fee is 1.5% and Zettle’s starts at 1.75%.

Revolut’s compliance procedure is remarkably straightforward – a major plus for business owners who lack the time or resources to fill out extensive forms. It’s better than the long questionnaire required by takepayments, or Retail Merchant Services’ complete lack of compliance.

However, Revolut’s sole two reporting tools don’t make it the best fit for businesses that need data insights to grow. This offer is the same as Tyl’s but way less than Zettle’s (five) and takepayments’ (eight).

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4. Zettle – Best for help and support

zettle logo
Zettle
4.8
Fees 1.75%-2.5%
Quick overview

Zettle is a payment taking platform that doubles as an EPOS system, like Square. Combining super low cost, a good amount of features and impeccable customer support, Zettle excelled in our testing and because of that, it tops our merchant account research, receiving a superb 4.8/5 from our payment experts.

Zettle’s lucky charm is its customer support. While it’s only available during weekdays, customers have the option to contact Zettle via phone, email, or live chat. This puts it in a better position than Revolut and Tyl, both of which lack an email support channel.

Elsewhere, Zettle integrates with 21 third-party platforms, includes five reporting tools, and accepts 25 currencies. Square, which offers a similar service, packs five reporting tools as well, but its integrations are countless. However, Square only supports the GBP. Both are solid fits for small businesses, but Zettle serves international ventures better.

Pros

Remarkable customer support

Free EPOS integration

Cons

High transaction fees

Only offers one reader with mobile data

Pricing
Fee typePrice
Transaction fees From 1.75%
Account fee None charged
Card machine price £29 + VAT
zettle card reader 2 on top of desk
This Zettle Card Reader 2 is ready for action at Batch1 in Green Lane, South East London.

How cheap is Zettle?

Zettle takes fourth place on this list due to its starting transaction fee (1.75%), which is higher than takepayments’ (0.3%) and Retail Merchant Services’ (0.4%). That said, it doesn’t have any account fees, which the other two providers do.

Also, it has one of the cheapest hardware we looked into: Zettle’s entry reader costs £29 + VAT, cheaper than Revolut’s, which costs £49 + VAT. However, its high transaction fees dented Zettle's performance in the price category of our research, where our experts awarded it a 4.1/5 score.

Despite its pricing hiccups, Zettle’s reporting tools and integrations – which earnt the provider an excellent 4.9/5 score in our analysis of its features – make it a great card machine for small businesses, as they’ll benefit from both its lack of fixed fees and its data tools.

However, Zettle’s poor offering of readers with mobile data don’t make it suitable for mobile businesses, like food trucks. Unless you go for Zettle’s costliest reader (priced at £149 + VAT), you’ll be dependent on an external internet source to operate.

5. takepayments – Best for bespoke transaction fees

takepayments logo featured image
takepayments
4.8
Transaction fees Bespoke
Quick overview

takepayments scores an impressive 4.8/5 score in our research. Upon testing, our experts found that its various reporting tools and solid customer score were among its biggest draws.

takepayments ends up on the fifth spot on this list due to its starting monthly account fee. At £20 + VAT, it’s costlier than Worldpay’s (£9.95 + VAT), Retail Merchant Services’ (£10 + VAT) and Barclaycard’s (£15 + VAT), though it’s cheaper than Dojo’s (£24.95 + VAT).

Beyond that, its mandatory contract length of 18 months is among the longest we've seen in our merchant account research. However, like Retail Merchant Services, takepayments allows for custom pricing so you can negotiate your fees.

takepayments’ best for medium-sized businesses that can fully use (and make the most out of) its accounting detailing and product customisation. Also, international businesses will appreciate its multi-currency support: it accepts 170, which is 50 more than Worldpay and 70 more than Retail Merchant Services. Because of those, we can't think of any room for improvement in takepayments' features.

While it's not quite as fast as Worldpay’s 30min (!), takespayments settles payments the next business day. This makes it faster than Zettle (up to 2 working days) in this regard.

Pros

Cheap transaction fees

Supports 170 currencies

Cons

No invoicing tool

Long fund transfer times

Pricing
Fee typePrice
Transaction fees Bespoke
Account fee From £20 + VAT
Card machine price Quote-by-quote basis

How cheap is takepayments?

takepayments’ has cheap rates in spades. Its starting transaction fee is bespoke and will be tailored to your business size / turnover. However, its account fee, though negotiable, starts at £20 + VAT, which makes it pricier than Retail Merchant Services’ (£10 + VAT).

This dents takepayments’ performance in the price category, where it ties with Zettle by scoring 4.1/5, though ultimately it loses out to this competitor on this list due to its account fee, which is something Zettle doesn’t charge.

It's worth noting that another strength of takepayments is its eight reporting tools and support of 170 currencies. With those, while it doesn't beat Zettle in price, it easily trumps its five reporting tools and support of 25 currencies. This, combined with its 16 third-party integrations, led to an outstanding 5/5 score in features.

The wide multi-currency support makes it a great provider for companies that are keen on growing internationally. However, for companies that need more hands-on support, its lack of an email support contact (like the one Zettle offers) is a clear disadvantage. This is because this extra support channel is helpful for business owners who want to reach out with a query but don't have time to sit on the phone or a live chat channel.

Fees to watch out for when taking payments

You should watch out for different merchant account fees – such as transaction fees, conversion rates, and termination fees – when choosing a provider.

All the providers featured in the article charge different fees for in-person and online payments, except Tyl, which charges 1.6% for both. You should bear your business’ profile in mind when considering their difference.

If your business operates internationally, it’s a good idea to read the fine print of the providers’ conversion rates. While all of the merchant account companies featured here accept multi-currencies (apart from Tyl), they might charge you extra fees depending on the currency you’re paid in.

Also, picking a traditional provider instead of a mobile can be money-saving when it comes to transaction fees, but they do operate via fixed-term contracts that come with termination fees. Retail Merchant Services and takepayments, for example, require you to pay out your existing contract to get out of it – which isn’t ideal if you’re starting a high-risk venture.

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Our verdict and your next steps

The cheapest merchant service provider we've found is Retail Merchant Services, providing the cheapest way to take card payments according to our thorough market analysis. At 0.4%, it charges the cheapest base transaction fee of all the providers we evaluated, as well as a £10 account fee that we know can be negotiated even lower. Furthermore, it packs an incredible array of features for its price tag, leading us to award it an overall score of 4.7/5.

Want to get a more personalised recommendation? We've built a free quote matching tool to help. Simply answer a few questions about what you need, and behind the scenes we'll match you up with merchant service providers that suit your requirements. They'll then be in touch directly with no-obligation quotes that have been tailored to you, so you can compare truly accurate prices. It's a quick and easy way to choose a great provider, and get signed up right away.

How We Test Merchant Account Products and Services for UK Businesses

We tested 11 market-leading merchant account products and services to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, regulatory compliance, customer support, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to UK businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 25 subcategories – in fact, we covered 36 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our product testing algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for merchant account products and services are:

Compliance: the adherence of the merchant account product to relevant regulations and standards, such as data security, anti-fraud measures, and legal requirements.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the merchant account provider to users in resolving issues, answering questions, and providing guidance.

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular merchant account – the market position and reputation a merchant account holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the merchant account product. This can include online payment processing, payment gateway integration, and fraud prevention.

Taking Payments: the process and options available for accepting payments through the merchant account product.

Price: the cost associated with using the merchant account product, including transaction fees, setup fees, monthly fees, and any additional charges.

 

Cheapest ways to take payments FAQs

How can I accept payments without a fee?
The only way to accept payments without a fee is to be paid in cash while using an offline cash register. The minute you start using an informational system to take payments (as in all card transactions), the provider of the system will charge you fees.
How can small businesses take credit card payments?
Small businesses can take credit card payments through the use of merchant accounts, which are payment gateways that serve as a buffer account between your customers’ banks and yours.
How much does it cost to accept card payments?
Card payments fees can vary between 0.3% and 1.75% per transaction. You may also pay an account fee, if your provider charges it, which can cost you between £9.95 + VAT and £75 + VAT per month. Finally, on top of that, you’ll also have to buy a card reader to accept in-person card payments. A reader can cost between £6.99 + VAT per month and £179 + VAT (one-off purchase).
What's the cheapest way to take payments online?
takepayments offers the cheapest way to take payments online. It charges a fee of only 10p for online transactions – and it even waives that for your first 400.
Can I charge for taking card payments?
You cannot charge for taking card payments when a consumer or personal card is used, as this was banned in 2018 in the UK. However, you can still apply a surcharge on transactions made with business or corporate cards.
What's the cheapest way to take card payments over the phone?
The cheapest way to take card payments over the phone depends on your business type, but you'll need a virtual terminal regardless. Businesses with a large sales volume can use contract providers such as takepayments, which offer virtual terminals with low transaction fees for a monthly fee. For businesses with a lower sales volume, we recommend mobile providers like Square and Zettle. They charge 2.5% transaction fees when using their virtual terminals but no monthly fees.

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Written by:
Lucas Pistilli author headshot photo
Lucas is a Brazilian-born journalist and Expert Market’s go-to writer for all things EPOS systems, merchant accounts, and franking machines. Having covered business, politics and technology for many years, he’s driven by his passion for the written word and his goal to help people make well-informed decisions.
Reviewed by:
Ruairi uses his 3+ years of research experience to uncover insights which can help Expert Market provide the best business solutions for their users. He has done this by meeting with business owners to find out what is important to them and what challenges they face on a daily basis. Ruairi specialises in tools that can be used to grow your business and has done research for a wide range of categories on Expert Market, such as EPOS, Website Builders, and Merchant Accounts.